Tuesday, February 15, 2011

lessons in (chicken) love

Hector the fearless protector did not have a good Valentine's Day. Not good at all.

He spent the whole day looking for love (that is, chasing a chicken) without result. By evening, he was weeping into his water and seed.

The story begins a few days ago. Frank came home from work with two new ISA Brown hens. We locked them in the coop to allow Roxanne and Hector the requisite period of adjustment, in which all birds could view each other without competing for precious resources.

Hector, who tends to moping and depression, came alive. He pranced and danced around the coup, all puffed up with pride and dressed to impress his new ladies, his two remaining tail feathers (the rest having been lost to an injury sustained in a dog attack some time ago) bouncing up and down to the rhythm of his joy.

The ladies were only mildly impressed, and poor Hector was left to stand by and steady himself until their release three days later, at which point he wooed and won them. Or forced himself upon them, as roosters are wont to do.

The settling in of Gwendolene and Penelope was thus progressing nicely until, unannounced, another chicken arrived. Enter Izzie, a delicate Golden Lace Wyandotte, half the size of the other hens and a quarter the size of Hector. Her breeder released her straight into the middle of the flock - no adjustment period eyeing each other off through the wire, just straight in, face to face, feather to feather, claw to claw.

It wasn't quite that bad, but the larger hens immediately set about letting little Izzie know who was boss, while Hector thought all his dreams had come true. Not one. Not three, but four hens to play with! He set straight to chasing Izzie down, however, it was not to be. Hector's size betrayed him. Izzie ducked and weaved and ran delicately across the lawn, and dodged poor Hector at every turn.

Next time we looked, Izzie was up a tree. Not just one or two branches up, but four, five, then six boughs above the ground. The more we attempted to coax her down, the further up she jumped. Eventually Frank climbed the tree and shooed her down via this tree and that, until she reached the ground. A harried chase around the yard and we had her, shoving her into the coop before she could climb another tree and (perhaps) escape into the neighbour's yard.

It was at this point that Hector went seriously wrong - or perhaps I should say more seriously wrong. He would surely have helped his cause if he had caught juicy morsels and dropped them through the wire for Izzie. Or serenaded her sweetly, or even just gazed longingly at her. But no. That is not his way. He immediately set about psyching her out, following her every move (back and forth, back and forth), posturing from the sidelines, even just plonking himself down right next to her pecking space. Over the course of several days he grew tired of waiting, and wandered off and fell asleep.

Soon we decided it was time to trial Izzie with the flock. They'd had two days to eye each other off, so we opened the coup and set her free. Hector immediately pounced. Much ducking and weaving ensued until silly Izzie ran into the coop and Hector followed with alacrity. Next thing he had her by the neck, attempting to drag her into submission. Izzie might be tiny, but she point blank refused to budge, so Hector couldn't quite get himself positioned the way he wanted and eventually he let her go. Off she raced, keeping her distance for the rest of the evening.

That night we went down to see how the sleeping arrangements had worked out. One in the coop, three on the branch... and Izzie nowhere to be seen. In the one hour we'd been away, she'd disappeared. We hunted high and low, with torches, climbing fences, calling around the neighbourhood, but there was no sign of her. Negligent Cecily and Frank had lost another hapless, defenceless chicken (on top of sweet Priscilla, who mysteriously disappeared in September last year) .

We set the alarm for 6.30 am, determined to get up and hunt around some more... and there she was. Scratching in the mulch as if nothing had happened. It was only the next night we discovered her hiding high up in a tree, camouflaged amongst the leaves.

And now, every day, Hector harangues Izzie, determined to find his love with her. Every day she ducks and dives and escapes his clutches, leaving him frustrated and forlorn.

I looked at him yesterday, Valentine's Day, the day of love, and I shook my head. Hector, Hector, Hector - that is not the way to a chicken's heart. Don't chase her, scare or harass her. You've got to woo her matey. A little crooning, a worm or two. Call her over to a stash of luscious grass... win her heart and then you can have your way with her!

That or continue as you are, mean and lonely.

It's your choice Hector. You decide how you want it to be! And please hurry up about it, because Izzie is of the breed that goes clucky at the drop of a hat. And we want (strangely crossed) chicks at some point - that's why we bought her!

It's not all about you Hector, so please... be a gentleman. Fast! (And perhaps wear a helmet, for I fear she may poop on you in the night from her very high perch!)



At 4:03 pm, February 16, 2011, Blogger Cherie said...

What I wouldn't give to watch this Cecily, Frank, and Hector Show! Sounds very lively - and hilarious.

Good luck in the producing of chickie grandchildren!

At 6:48 pm, February 16, 2011, Blogger Ern Malleyscrub said...

I saw a science show on TV that discussed the curious behaviour of chickens and roosters. The roosters can "lie" but the chickens can find out and remember the lie. More complex than I imagined. Sorry, I can't tell you what show it was, maybe ABC Catalyst...


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